The high school basketball season is underway with conference play starting this week for the Three Rivers Conference. After getting input from coaches in the new 10-team league, The Robesonian will take a look at each of the conference’s 20 squads and offer preseason predictions.
Here’s how we see things shaking out this season.
PREDICTED CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Head Coach: Montrell McNair
Last Season: 25-5, 12-2 TRC
Key Players: Derrick Arnette (Sr., G); Corry Addison (Sr., G); Javon Morris (Jr., F)
Coming off its seventh straight regular-season conference championship and a conference tournament title, the Golden Tornadoes enter the new season without their top two scorers — Jarique Moore and Julius Caulder — from last season. But with a roster that features seven seniors, including a pair of all-conference performers in Derrick Arnette and Corry Addison, the Golden Tornadoes will be in the mix for their eighth consecutive league title.
2. Red Springs
Head Coach: Glenn Patterson
Last Season: 13-12, 9-5
Key Players: Caleel Mitchell (Sr., G); Monte’ Wilkerson (Sr., G); Eriq McBryde (Sr., F)
Patterson’s veteran group is led by a pair of all-conference senior guards in Monte’ Wilkerson and Caleel Mitchell. With just one underclassmen on the roster, the Red Devils enter the season with high expectations. Seniors Eriq McBryde and Jerome Bass will anchor the Red Devils’ frontcourt. Could this be the year Red Springs finally ends its drought against Fairmont?
Head Coach: Jerry Singletary
Last Season: 20-7, 12-2 TRC
Key Players: Cameron Smith (Sr., G); Phillip Powell (Sr., G); Cameron Richardson (Jr., F)
For the first time in quite some time, the Wolfpack enters the season without a Kirk on the roster. Tyrell Kirk, the reigning league player of the year, is now at UNCP. After sharing the regular season title with Fairmont last season, Whiteville returns a trio of all-conference performers in Cameron Richardson, Demetrius Brown and Bradley Pridgen. The squad also welcomes back sharpshooter Cameron Smith.
4. St. Pauls
Head Coach: Corey Thompson
Last Season: 19-8, 11-3 TRC
Key Players: Romeo Jordan (Sr., F); Aaron Revels (Sr., G); Sean McNeil (Sr., F)
As a first-year coach, Corey Thompson inherited a veteran squad that helped St. Pauls finish third in the league behind Fairmont and Whiteville. The core group that led last year’s team has now departed, leaving the eight seniors on the roster to accept bigger roles. Romeo Jordan will be the go-to guy on offense for the Bulldogs, with 6-foot-7 Sean McNeil patrolling the paint.
5. West Columbus
Head Coach: W.T. Edwards
Last Season: 7-13, 4-10 TRC
Key Players: Jake Brownlee (Sr., F); Dejour Smith (Sr., F); Tayvon Tyler (So., G)
Jake Brownlee, a Lees-McRae commit, enters the season as one of the top candidates to earn player of the year honors. The team’s leading scorer from last year will be even better for a much-improved Vikings squad that welcomes a pair of 6-foot-4 transfers this season in Kevon Lewis and Deontay Bromwell.
6. South Columbus
Head Coach: Bryant Edwards
Last Season: 6-15, 4-10 TRC
Key Players: Shiquan Conyers (Jr., G); Tyrek Long (Sr., F); Trey Bellamy (Jr., G)
Shiquan Conyers and Trey Bellamy form a potent backcourt for a Stallion squad that features 11 upperclassmen. Conyers and Bellamy are poised for breakout junior campaigns with Tyrek Long returning as the team’s top rebounder from last season.
7. West Bladen
Head Coach: Travis Pait
Last Season: 18-10, 9-5 Four County
Key Players: Scott Bowen (Sr., G); Jonathon Robinson (Sr., C); Jimmy Williams (Sr., G)
With Sayaun Dent at Lander and John Bowen at Belmont Abbey, the Knights enter the new season without their top two players from last year. A quartet of seniors — Scott Bowen, Jonathon Robinson, Jimmy Williams and Gerardo Reyes — will be vital to West Bladen’s success as it enters the new league.
8. South Robeson
Head Coach: Ryan Bullard
Last Season 4-18, 2-12 TRC
Key Players: Jaleel Lesane (Sr., F); Cameron Werrell (Jr., F); Jaurius Davis (Sr., G)
Ryan Bullard begins his first year as head coach of the Mustangs, who return the scoring of all-conference performer Jaleel Lesane and Cameron Werrell from last year. Jaurius Davis is expected to handle point-guard duties, with Daniel Murray and Zach Carter providing depth in the backcourt.
9. East Bladen
Head Coach: Kenzil McCall
Last Season: 4-23, 1-13 Four County
Key Players: Xavier Wooten (Sr., F); Adonis Avery (Jr., G); Sadique Ingram (Sr., F)
After earning just one conference win last season, the Eagles enter the new league without their top three guards from last season — Ethan Hines, Eian Hines and Denzel Johnson. Adonis Avery figures to be the team’s top option on offense. Xavier Wooten will also need to provide scoring and rebounding for East Bladen.
10. East Columbus
Head Coach: Marcus Skipper
Last Season: 7-17, 2-12 TRC
Key Players: Graylan Daniels (Sr., G); Donavan Worley (Jr., G); Jordan McKoy (Sr., C)
The Gators lost their top five scorers from last season, leaving Graylan Daniels — who averaged just under four points per game last year — as the top returner on a team searching for a new identity without Alex Moore, Travin Squires and John Baldwin.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Derrick Arnette, Sr., G, Fairmont — The county’s reigning defensive player of the year will need to maintain his standing as the league’s top defender and pick up the scoring load for a Fairmont team looking to claim its eighth consecutive conference title. He’s more than capable of living up to the hype.
1. Red Springs
Head Coach: Steve Sinclair
Last Season: 21-6, 12-2 TRC
Key Players: Taya Jones (Sr., G); Taylynn Atkinson (Sr., F); Katelyn Culbreth (So., F)
After claiming the Three Rivers Conference tournament crown last season, the Lady Red Devils enter the season as the favorites to win the regular season title with North Carolina A&T signee Taya Jones — the preseason player of the year — pacing the attack on both ends of the floor. Taylynn Atkinson provides the Red Devils with a versatile forward capable of scoring in a variety of ways.
2. East Bladen
Head Coach: Patty Evers
Last Season: 22-6, 12-2 Four County
Key Players: Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson (Jr., G); Patience Ward (So., F); Ashley Hardin (Jr., F)
The Lady Eagles enter the new league as one of the premier programs in the region. Coming off a second-place finish last season behind Clinton — which went on to claim the 2A state title — in the Four County Conference, East Bladen is capable of winning the TRC in its first year. Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson is a player of the year candidate surrounded by plenty of talent.
Head Coach: Richard Mitchell
Last Season: 12-13, 8-6 TRC
Key Players: Kiara Page (Sr., F); Destiny McMillian (Sr., F); Krishay Moore (Sr., G)
Kiara Page, a double-double machine, helped the Lady Tornadoes take the next step as a program last year with their highest finish in the conference standings since the 2006-07 season. Fairmont returns four of its five top scorers from last season and just one underclassmen. Page and fellow captain Destiny McMillian will anchor the frontcourt for the Lady Tornadoes with Krishay Moore returning as the team’s floor general.
Head Coach: Serena Smith
Last Season: 9-15, 8-6 TRC
Key Players: Nsaia Rogers (Sr., G); Breanna McCellon (Sr., G); Marquasia Smith (Jr., F)
The Lady Wolfpack returns its top three scorers from last season in all-conference guards Nsaia Rogers, Breanna McCellon and forward Marquasia Smith. With added depth to the roster, Whiteville should be in a position to finish in the top half of the league standings.
5. East Columbus
Head Coach: Eddie Ravenell
Last Season: 22-5, 14-0 TRC
Key Players: Tia Campbell (Sr., G); Hope Freeman (Jr., G); Shynicquel Watson (Sr., G)
The Lady Gators have some turnaround coming off an unbeaten season in conference play under Candra Powell and TRC player of the year Charity Powell. With both of those pieces gone, along with Mia Campbell, East Columbus begins a new era under Eddie Ravenell. All-conference performer Tia Campbell will shoulder the scoring load for the Lady Gators.
6. South Columbus
Head Coach: Megan Storms
Last Season: 12-12, 7-7 TRC
Key Players: Caila Turbeville (Jr., G); Haley Rising (Sr., F); Carson Powell (Sr., F)
Hailey Sarvis and Madison Spencer, a pair of all-conference performers for the Lady Stallions, leave the keys to Caila Turbeville this season. Turbeville was the team’s third-leading scorer last season with Haley Rising returning as the team’s second-leading rebounder.
7. West Columbus
Head Coach: John W. Browning
Last Season: 8-16, 4-10 TRC
Key Players: Annela Tiffany (Sr., F); Tah’nijah McKoy (Jr., G); Raeana Goodman (Sr., G)
After weathering a mediocre season with a young squad last season, the Lady Vikings return their top three scorers from last season in Annela Tiffany, Tah’nijah McKoy and Raena Goodman. Goodman is expected to be the team’s top distributor with McKoy returning as the team’s top bucket-getter. Tiffany nearly averaged a double-double last season.
8. West Bladen
Head Coach: Brian McCleney
Last Season: 12-15, 7-7 Four County
Key Players: Patience Parker (Sr., G); Indiyah Williams (Sr., F); Elizabeth Allbright (Sr., F)
First-year coach Brian McCleney leads the Lady Knights into a new league without their top four scorers from last season. Patience Parker averaged just under five points per game for West Bladen last year and leads a group of six seniors on the roster.
9. St. Pauls
Head Coach: Mike Moses
Last Season: 3-20, 3-11 TRC
Key Players: Kenija McGougan (Jr., G); T.J. Eichelberger (Fr., G); Judiah Simms-Moore (Jr., F)
Mike Moses is placing an emphasis on hard work and energy during his first year with the Lady Bulldogs. Junior Kenija McGougan and rookie T.J. Eichelberger will be the leaders in the backcourt. Judiah Simms-Moore will play a vital role in the frontcourt with the departure of Grace Hall.
10. South Robeson
Head Coach: Lula Ratley
Last Season: 3-18, 0-14 TRC
Key Players: Nytia Lewis (Jr., F); Hailey Werrell (So., F); Tellia Page (Jr., G)
Finishing with just three wins and no victories in conference play, South Robeson looks to return to form this season with a more experienced roster. Juniors Nytia Lewis and Zaneta Ellerbee, along with sophomores Tellia Page and Hailey Werrell are the only four players that were on the team last year.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Taya Jones, Sr., G, Red Springs — Jones has improved her scoring, points, rebounds, steals and assists every year for the Lady Red Devils and takes over as the primary guard for the team following the departure of Sha’nia Leach. The N.C. A&T signee has her eyes set on a big season to close out her prep career — and another conference title.